As the Telangana cauldron boils over
moves are already afoot to paint the dispute in communal colors and
make the region's Muslims the proverbial sacrificial lamb. The
mainstream media has been a party in this mis-characterization of
the entire Muslim community as opposed to the the separate state.
The two most widely repeated allegations are : 1)The
Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM) is stridently opposed to the
concept of a separate Telangana; 2) Telangana Muslims have not
played any role whatsoever in the movement for separate state.
However, an analysis of the historical and contemporary trends
reveals that both these assertions are incorrect.
Since the amalgamation of the
erstwhile Hyderabad state in the Indian union in 1948 and the its
subsequent breaking apart in three linguistic states the Muslims of
the region has suffered the most. They were resigned to the their
fate and accepted the new regional configuration. They sought to
protect and advance their interests in the existing framework. In
this endeavor sections of the leadership sought support in all
political and social organizations which appeared to be
The Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen once
it was revived after a nine year hiatus in 1957 declared itself
neutral when the first signs of the Telangana issue began to be
observed during the 1960s. The party did send some signals that
Muslims could be worse off in a separate state due to the communal
character of some of the leaders of the separatist movement.
However, it announced that the party
would give political support to anyone who would support its 14
point charter which included: the appointment of a committee to
enquire into Muslim backwardness; an assurance that no changes will
be made in the Muslim personal laws; recognition of Urdu as the
second regional language; representation of Muslims in services
proportionate to their population; allotment of houses to
constructed by the State Housing Board on the basis of Muslim
With no overtures coming from the
Telangana movement leaders the MIM made a demand, praised by
political scientists as a brilliant one, that in the case of
separation Hyderabad and Secunderabad should be constituted as a
The Majlis' cold stance over Telangana
is also related to the personal antipathy between its and the
movement's leaders going back to the 1950s. Dr. Chenna Reddy, the
erstwhile Congress chief minister and at one point Telangana
movement leader, had been instrumental in weeding out Muslims from
the state services and had uneasy relations with the Muslim
community. Their relations were further worsened when the movement
agitation turned into communal conflagrations in which the Muslims
faced the brunt.
Since the revival of the movement
under the banner of Telangana Rashtriya Samiti in 2001 the MIM has
once again repeated its earlier stance that it would remain neutral
in the issue and would offer support provided that Muslim interests
are protected. Their overtures did not get a positive reply from the
TRS and the late Sultan Salahuddin Owaisi said that Hyderabad be
turned into a Union Territory and Warangal, the capital of Kakatiya
Dynasty, be made into a capital of Telangana.
In the current scenario MIM's stance
is that the party would remain neutral in the dispute and would be
willing to offer any support only if there is a clear cut offer for
Muslim development and the protection of the sectional interests of
Muslim Support for
Distinct from the MIM stance there has
been a parallel historical trend in the Telangana region Muslims who
support bifurcation. The All India Majlis-e-Tameer-e-Millat under
the leadership of the late Khaleelullah Hussaini and Ghouse
Khamooshi believed that Muslims would indeed be better off in a
separate Telangana state. Speaking in 1970 its then Secretary Taheer
Ali Khan told a German scholar, 'I can't speak to a minister from
Andhra, he does not speak our language.'
Politicians like the Congress' M.M.
Hashim, a close confidante of Chenna Reddy, former MP and home
minister, also urged the Muslims to support Telangana. 'We must not
make the mistake of remaining aloof...We must fight for Telangana,'
he had said in 1970.
Consequently, a section of Telangana
Muslims always remained wedded to the concept of a separate
While the issue remained forgotten
during the 1980s and 1990s it was Muslim leaders like the late
Amanullah Khan, who quit MIM and formed the Majlis Bachao Tehreek,
who kept it alive by speaking out for separate statehood in public
forums. The Majlis Bachao Tehreek now supports separate Telangana.
At the revival of the movement since
2001 many Muslims joined the party. This is evidenced by massive
support shown towards its leaders like Nayeeni Narasimha Reddy who
was elected from the Musheerabad assembly constituency. TRS chief K.
Chandrashekhar Rao numerous promises to the Muslim community also
had a brief spell on the community. He promised to make Urdu a
second language and gave adequate representation while allotting
tickets. He did appoint one Muslim Al Attas to the legislative
council but otherwise did not keep his promise of giving adequate
tickets to the community. Doubts about the party's sincerity were
further raised over the inclusion of communal minded elements in the
party. One particular prick in the eye was Ale Narendra, the MP from
Medak, who had many a part to play in the stoking of communal
violence during the Ganesha festival riots. He later quit the party
and was elected on the Congress ticket. Another eyesore was a party
general secretary who was the Hyderabad pranth chief of RSS and has
never actually quit the Sangh. Apart from hi profile leaders several
other RSS and VHP activists are members of the TRS.
Despite the obvious unease a section
of the Muslims have remained with the TRS. When a hunger striking
KCR was hospitalized a delegation of Muslim leaders comprising Iqbal
Ahmed Engineer (columnist and intellectual), Mushtaq Malik (Tehreek
Muslim Shabban), leaders from the Jamaat-e-Islami affiliated MPJ,
etc. visited him and offered their solidarity to the separate state
cause. They later organized a protest in the city center of
Charminar. Several such demonstrations, organized by Muslims, were
held in all ten districts of Telangana.
What Now ?
When the separate state of Telangana
is carved out, whenever that is, the Muslims would be at a
demographic advantage. Their proportion will increase to 12.43 %
from 9.16 % in a United Andhra.
Census of India,
While Telangana Muslims gain
demographically the same would not be true for Andhra Muslims. Their
numbers would reduce to 7%. Since there is no emergent political
leadership among Andhra Muslims how they will fare in a new Andhra
remains to be seen. Their security in the coming months and years of
heightened tension remains an issue of concern. There is a high
chance that might be targeted as they are an easy scapegoat.
In terms of political representation
the number of Muslims in legislatures is also expected to grow. The
relevance of MIM would also grow given the importance of small
parties in small states as experienced by Jharkhand in this fast
paced era of coalition politics. It currently has seven MLAs and one
MP. Other parties like Majlis Bachao Tehreek might also be able to
make some progress in winning assembly seats.
The gains in terms of representation
might be offset by the chance that a separate state gives to BJP. In
the present assembly there is only one BJP MLA. In a separate
Telangana their numbers might also increase especially if KCR forms
a coalition with the NDA---an idea which he is not averse too.
Leaving apart the respresentation
gains there are number of questions which need to be answered. What
will be the status of Urdu in Telangana ? Would it be given a second
language status ? What would happen to the reservations currently
offered to the state's Muslims ?
Even more importantly what would
happen to the communal peace. The relative peace of the last two
decades has largely been due to the availability of jobs and the
good economic scenario. In the separate state there is a chance that
there will be a capital flight both by the Andhras and the MNCs.
Historical experience has shown that the potential for violence is
most potent in times of economic downturn.
The writer is a Phd
candidate in Political Science at a Canadian University